UniQuest brokers university biofuel partnership

Leading Australian university research commercialisation company UniQuest Pty Limited has brokered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The University of Queensland (UQ) and South Carolina’s Clemson University to collaborate on biofuel research and commercial development.

The agreement was signed on 27 June in Washington DC at the BIO Convention, the largest annual biotechnology industry meeting in the world. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh witnessed and endorsed the official MOU signing.

UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said the combined research capabilities of both institutions had the potential to accelerate the discovery and development of alternative power sources, which would be attractive to companies working in the renewable energies sector as well as other industries seeking to operate with greater environmental sustainability.

“We wanted to bring Clemson’s intellectual property in cellulosic conversion technologies to Australia because there’s a clear alignment with UQ’s research excellence in biomass crop selection, breeding, genomic analysis and yield improvement. Under this agreement we can offer industry partners unique benefits of scale,” Mr Henderson said.

“The supply of energy and fuel to the global industrial, retail and consumer markets currently depends on coal and natural gas, with demand out-stripping supply.

“The International Energy Agency estimates that biofuels could meet more than a quarter of world demand for transportation fuels by 2050, with aviation emerging as a key market segment. Several USi experts have proposed a target of one percent or 60 million gallons of biofuel for commercial airlines by 2015.

“With investment in biofuel production exceeding $4 billion worldwide and continuing to grow, this collaboration will position UQ and Clemson to play a significant role in serving global needs for energy in the future.”

Director of commercialisation and technology incubation at Clemson University, Karl Kelly, said the collaboration will foster the evolution of invaluable new energy strategies.

“Joint research will focus on how to provide new fuels that will enable energy independence, development of novel technologies for biofuel production, and how best to produce ‘green’ and readily available fuels to secure economic development in South Carolina and Queensland,” Mr Kelly said.

”Along with a substantial investment in research and development, Clemson and UQ will ensure technology transfer, training and commercialisation projects are given a high priority.”

UniQuest has established a presence in the biofuels sector with ventures such as the start-up company BioEnergy Solutions Pty Ltd, which is commercialising Pongamia oil, and several algae bioreaction-based technologies.

UniQuest is also responsible for managing the intellectual property originating from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovationi (QAAFI), where various biofuel research projects are investigating tropical and subtropical biofuel feedstocks and related processing technologies.

The UQ-Clemson collaboration will focus on sugarcane conversion to ethanol; cellulosic conversion to biodiesel technologies; biodiesel applications such as military, mining, industrial and personal transportation; and tapping into the energy stores of the non-edible parts of sugarcane and sorghum.

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